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The Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra

The Reviews

  • “Orchestra Approved in Debut” — 6 January 1965

    Orchestra Approved in Debut

    By Mimi Clar

    A new resident orchestra, the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra conducted by Stan Kenton, made its debut in The Pavilion of The Music Center Monday evening. A large crowd was on hand to greet the organization’s initial undertaking and to manifest approval.

    The Idea of a resident orchestra dedicated to the performance of contemporary jazz-oriented music is commendable, and the members or the Neophonic Orchestra are well capable of carrying out assignments in the contemporary idiom. Men such as Buddy Colleltte, Red Callender, Bud Shank, Laurindo Almeida. and Conte Candoli belong to the group; their musical capabilities need no further celebration here, except for a word of acclaim for Shelly Manne whose masterful drumming served to coordinate the entire orchestral operation.

    New Sound

    Although the program offered no explanation of the word “neophonic,” it is assumed that it pertains to a new sound of some sort How new the sound of the dozen compositions presented (some enjoying American or world premieres) is debatable. Much of the music harked back to the style of Kenton’s former bands; some of it was just good old fashioned dance band music.

    As time passes. the orchestra will undoubtedly diversify its roster of composers which should broaden its scope considerably.

    The majority of pieces were fashioned in all shades of brass, moody, bright, calm or chaotic. Composers represented were Johnny Richards, Lalo Schifrin, Hugo Montenegro, Pete Rugolo, Marty Paich, and Bill Holman.

    Noble Attempt

    Not all of them attained their lofty aims but among their efforts, Rugolo’s “Conflict” seemed the most adventuresome with new tonal concepts. Schifrin’s “The Sphinx” set forth the provocative Idea of a contemporary fugue; and Kenton’s own “Opus for Timpani” successfully built its themes into big things.

    The main event, the American premiere of Friedrich Gulda’s Neo-Concerto for Band and Plano No. 2, came last. The composer himself tended to the pianistics and gave an impressive display of keyboard virtuosity. The piece Itself was largely a rehash of familiar jazz ideas.

    —MIMI CLAR


    Clar, Mimi. "Orchestra Approved in Debut." The Los Angeles Times 6 Jan. 1965: 63.

  • “Kenton Band Hits Stride in 2nd Event” — 3 February 1965

    Kenton Band Hits Stride in 2nd Event

    By Mimi Clar

    Congratulations are in order for the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra, conducted by Stan Kenton Monday night in its second concert in The Music center. In the short space of a month, the organization seems to have discovered its identity as well as the type of composition most uniquely suited to the abilities of its personnel.

    It has emerged as a big eager masculine band, an orchestra that thrusts out its chest and takes pride in what it is—a jazz band that plays jazz and plays it gladly and beautifully. And for the most part, the aggregation appears to have eschewed third rate imitations of modern classical music for the best its own jazz idiom has to offer.

    The result was an inspired group that performed with the precision and assurance of a winning race horse. There were power and overwhelming energy in this swift seething music but there was also a buoyancy which kept the playing resilient and which prevented it from disintegrating into more sledge hammer effects.

    Allyn Ferguson’s stimulating Passacaglia and Fugue and Don Piestrup’s modal “Early Start” were ideal vehicles to display the orchestra’s attributes. Other compositions, less intriguing but equally well-executed, were a suite by Julian Lee, a blues by Gerald Wilson. And Russ Garcia’s abstract “Adventure in Emotion.”

    Dizzy Gillespie appeared as guest soloist for four of his own pieces. None was among the trumpeter’s more impressive efforts but all benefited from Gillespie’s witty pungent improvisations and the master craftsmanship of his playing.

    On the less estimable side lay George Shearing’s “Evolution,” a weak-kneed affair for horns and woodwinds, and Kenton’s transcriptions of Wagner for Neophonic Orchestra. The latter merely served to prove that Wagner is best left to Wagner.

    — MIMI CLAR


    Clar, Mimi. “Kenton Band Hits Stride in 2nd Event.” The Los Angeles Times 3 Feb. 1965: 56.

  • “Neophonic Orchestra Gives Jazz Concert” — 3 March 1965

    Neophonic Orchestra Gives Jazz Concert

    By Mimi Clar

    Stan Kenton conducted the third concert of the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra in The Music Center Monday evening.

    By now the organization seems to have made up its mind to be a jazz band and that is all to the good, since the men involved are all first rate jazz musicians.

    But the orchestra presents something of a paradox in the contrast of how it plays with what it performs. The group scintillates with its precise section work, its mobile phrasing and its crisp attacks, as the instruments unite in the soaring excitement of their ensemble song.

    Unfortunately, this spirit of adventure and discovery is confined to the orchestra’s playing, for the compositions it performs are in the majority lackluster affairs, which never seem to realize the potential of the band’s ambitious aims. In the three concerts heard so far, only a few pieces have been sufficiently worthwhile to bear repeating.

    Monday’s roster of composers included Jim Knight, Dee Barton, Ralph Carmichael, Clare Fischer, Shorty Rogers and Nelson Riddle. Among their efforts, one could only single out Rogers’ “The Invisible Orchard,” a ballet from which three excerpts were presented. Here, cohesive ideas rang forth in statements whose biting swinging beauty fairly lifted the audience from its chairs.

    Ralph Carmichael’s “Color It Green” might be nominated as a pleasant second best following the Rogers work.

    The evening’s soloists were Buddy De Franco, c1arinet, and Jimmy Smith, electric organ. Each displayed his respective abilities satisfactorily, although Smith placed himself and his jazz at a disadvantage with an instrument that tends to make all music sound like it belongs in darkened restaurants ornamented with ferns and illuminated aquariums.

    —MIMI CLAR


    Clar, Mimi. "Neophonic Orchestra Gives Jazz Concert." The Los Angeles Times 3 Mar. 1965: 62.

  • “Neophonic Blows Hot, Cold” — 31 March 1965

    Neophonic Blows Hot, Cold

    By Mimi Clar

    The fourth and final concert by the Neophonic Orchestra, conducted by Stan Kenton, provided a cross section of the organization’s virtues and flaws.

    There was some fine performing, the kind of soaring playing in which this orchestra excels and which lifts even mediocre material to more imposing heights. And there was some worthwhile music, most particularly a Prelude and Fugue by John Williams, based on the brooding chromaticisms of a melodic tone row.

    But there was also a good deal of music Monday in The Pavilion of The Music Center unequal to the standards of the kind of serious composition the Neophonic Orchestra professes to patronize. Some of the pieces bordered on novelty or commercialism, and hardly seemed worthy of the musicians’ capabilities.

    Monday’s main event was a performance of Mel Torme’s “California Suite,” sung by the composer, Betty Bennett and a chorus and conducted by Marty Paich.

    The suite’s greatest asset was Mel Torme singing, which lent significance to an otherwise undistinguished string of songs that lauded the virtues our state in listenable but strictly tried-and-true terms.

    Torme is something of a vocal marvel, and his easy conquest of treacherous intervals, his adept phrasing and his manipulation of rhythm shone brightly through the screen or his glossy material.

    Several other composers were extended a welcome. Among them was Bob Florence with a suite called ‘‘Here and Now,” which redeemed itself after a routine start with a contemplative song and a fugal jazz waltz played with admirable orchestral precision.

    Also represented were Jack Quigley, Van Alexander and Lyn Murray, whose pieces managed to be either active, exotic, or humorous without reaching any particular conclusions.

    — MIMI CLAR


    Clar, Mimi. “Neophonic Blows Hot, Cold.” The Los Angeles Times 31 Mar. 1965: 59.

  • “Neophonic—an Earful for 2 Critics” — 12 January 1966

    Neophonic—an Earful for 2 Critics

    By Martin Bernheimer

    The Los Angeles Neophonic is not the biggest orchestra I have heard at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but it certainly was the loudest. And if Monday night’s concert, which opened the group’s second season, is typical, it attracts the youngest, slenderest audience in Los Angeles—the audience least concerned with matters of conspicuous consumption.

    If the above observations strike you as irrelevant to the critical essences of the event, you are quite right, I am stalling for time because the neophonic more or less baffled this hopelessly square long-hair specialist. Like, man, I dug it, but I didn’t always get it.

    The problem, it seems to me, is that Monday night’s fare frequently fell between two stylistic chairs. It wasn’t disciplined and formalistic enough to take advantage of the best of “classical” procedures, nor was it spontaneous, improvisational and loose enough to be comfortably jazzy. So how do you take it apart?

    You don’t. You leave that to the well-practiced hand of Leonard Feather (after all, the jazz did dominate), and you content yourself with sorting out impressions.

    Negative impressions (random): after about 20 minutes, everything sounds suspiciously alike…the brassy band is pretty limited when it comes to varieties of mood…the spirited, jumpy stuff seems easy to fabricate, but no one seems able to say soft, gentle things…maybe they don’t want to…the conductor’s (Stan Kenton’s) primary function is to beat time, both with his hands (no baton) and his knees…no matter what those crazy saxophones do, they sound like the dance band of the 30s…something went wrong in the middle of Gerry Mulligan’s “Music for Baritone Saxophone and Orchestra”…damned if I know what, but Kenton stopped the band, mumbled something about Bar 15, and tried again…they made it the second time.

    Positive impressions: “Music for Baritone Saxophone and Orchestra” is really a concerto…the composer is just afraid of using that dirty long-hair term…it’s a good concerto—bright, idiomatic, imaginative, (though conservative) and really engaging in its Sherzo [sic] (third part)…Lennie Niehaus’ “Atonal Adventure” us too long, but still a real swinging study in uninhibited dissonance…the trombones overpower the horns in “Something for Horns” by Bill Jolly, but it is a fun piece anyhow, especially when Till Eulenspiegel pops in at the end…three saxophones go wild in the middle of Chick Sponder’s “Moodamorphosis”—sort of frenzied imitative improvisation, but it wasn’t improvised.

    Some Questions

    Questions: How many rehearsals did the orchestra have? (It played remarkably well much of the time but seemed strangely tentative once in a while.) has anyone ever thought of adding electronic instruments to the ensemble, or losing his collective herd and introducing a healthy string section? (There was one string—an amplified bass.) can’t the whole thing swing even farther out? (Lots of the music—Morty Stevens’ “Transient Moods” and parts of Oliver nelson’s “Piece for Orchestra” in particular—almost sounded banal.) Were Mort Sahl’s post-intermission comments really necessary? (He was supposedly making a pitch for increased Neophonic support, but threw in enough tasteless non-musical ramblings to make at least one listener squirm. No, Virginia, I did not squirm because he said nobody trusts the critics any more.)

    And where do we go from here?


    By Leonard Feather

    The Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra may have difficulties this season. The problems will have been self-imposed, for Stan Kenton set a high standard at the opening night concert Monday night and will be hard pressed to maintain it, let alone improve on it.

    Though the exact aim of the neophonic, like the meaning of the term itself, has never been quite clear, there was more evidence during the evening of a logical balance between jazz and non-jazz forms than at any of last season’s performances.

    Those who came expecting a soiree of serial music and Cage-Stockhausen effects may have been disappointed, for aside from the brash, bravura onslaught of Lennie Niehaus’ “Atonal Adventure” there was not much in the way of composition or orchestration for which parallels could not have been found in Kenton’s “Innovations” orchestra of 1950.

    Less Straining

    This worked out to the orchestra’s advantage, for on the whole there was less straining for effect and, with the sole exception of Morty Stevens’ “Transient Moods,” very little hooray-for-Hollywood movie magniloquence.

    The outstanding work among the eight items premiered as “Music for Baritone Saxophone.” Featuring Gerry Mulligan playing some themes of his own, including a waltz with a delightful descending melodic-harmonic pattern, it was orchestrated with great skill by Bill Holman.

    Rewarding Element

    Bob Cooper’s opener, “Solo for Orchestra,” weaved its way from heavy percussion into a skein of swinging brass flutes and Bud Shank, whose work on both alto sax and flute was a consistently rewarding element throughout the evening.

    Oliver Nelson’s “Piece for Orchestra” began as a simple minor 6/4 theme for unison saxes, moving later into massive percussion (too often evident throughout the evening) and a jubilant 12/8 beat. Chick Sponder’s “Moosamorphosis,” which made good use of the lower ranges of the band’s broad tonal palette, had some frantic and exciting moments of interplay between saxophonists Shank, Cooper and Bill Perkins.

    Swinging Jazz

    Earl Zindars’ “Vasa,” the only item on the menu that could be classified as more or less straightforward swinging jazz, featured effective guitar work by Johnny Gray. Bill Jolly’s “Something for Horns” (Couldn’t even one of these writers find an imaginative title for his work?) tried with limited success to spotlight the French horn section. Thematically it was corny and the harmony was that of the swing era. This is Neophonic!

    Considering the inadequate rehearsal time accorded the orchestra, the performance level was very satisfactory, though in the last movement of the Mulligan-Holman work Kenton had to stop and resume.

    The acoustics were imperfect: Conte Candoli’s trumpet solos were drowned out, partly through diffused sound and partly because of overwritten accompaniment. One factor what we would gladly have left totally inaudible was Mort Sahl’s series of tasteless, pointless comments following intermission. They did nothing for the dignity to which the Neophonic aspires.

    It seems tome that the orchestra is finding its way toward an effective fusion of two idioms. There is still insufficient free improvisation, excessive brass din, and some pretentiousness; yet most of the music heard Monday had form, individuality and a sense of direction, certainly to a greater extent than was apparent in 1965. The Los Angeles Neophonic picture is slowly but surely coming into focus.


    Feather, Leonard G, and Martin Bernheimer. "Neophonic—an Earful for 2 Critics." The Los Angeles Times 12 Jan. 1966: 62.

  • “Young Composer Don Ellis Isolates Neophonic Sound” — 9 February 1966

    Young Composer Don Ellis Isolates Neophonic Sound

    By Leonard Feather

    A young trumpeter and composer named Don Ellis grasped the entire mighty Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra, stuffed it in his very hip pocket, and ran off with the show Monday evening.

    His appearance in a work aptly entitled “Synthesis,” marked the first Conjunction of the neophonic and Ellls’ own group, which delights in the name of the Hindustani Jazz Sextet.

    Ellis’ long verbal introduction, in which be explained that his piece would use Indian rhythmic devices (“the most sophisticated rhythmic system in the world”), became so complex in its explanation of the meters about to be employed that some listeners were a little concerned about not having brought a computer to The Music Center. When the music was performed, however, mathematics no longer seemed relevant,

    Ragas Outlined

    The two basic ragas (Indian scales) were outlined by Hari Har Rao, who played the sitar and the table. The rest of the group comprised a conventional Jazz front line (Ellis and alto saxophonist Gabe Baltazar), plus mallet and rhythm instruments, all fortified, of course, by the 25 towering neophonlcists around them.

    The synthesis wound an extraordinarily jagged route from New Orleans to New Delhi, even taking in at times the staccato of rhythm and blues and the unison ensemble sound of an Ornette Coleman combo. This was no mere musical wedding; it was outright polygamy. Indian ragas and rhythms, European classical concepts, American sounds and African touches were all fused ln a work that bunt to a wild, searing climax—in fact, two or three wild, searing climaxes. Overlong, perhaps; pretentious, true; but when It was over we all knew that Ellis is a major talent as soloist, composer and catalyst. His is a name to watch for in the music of the 1970s.

    The EIIis work was the only one of the evening that gave full meaning to the term neophonic. Since it was played third among seven works premiered and conducted by Stan Kenton, two were pre-climactic and the rest anti-climactic.

    Effective Fusion

    A composition by Dave Grusin provided an occasionally effective fusion of the orchestra with Shelly Manne’s excellent quintet. Bobby Troup’s “Cavelli’s Dance” (orchestrated by Bob Enevoldsen) had a march-like, almost Khachaturianesque quality.

    Only one work was content to keep a traditional swinging jazz pulse throughout. This was J. Hill’s “Tribute lo a Poltergeist,” but like so many writers for this orchestra he made inadequate use of its improvisational resources.

    Duane Tatro’s “Sally IV” was rich in textures and made good use of Bud Shank’s flute. The evening’s opener, “Fusion” by Frank Comstock, was academically impeccable, employed the tympani to melodramatic effect, and had all the freshness and neophonic vitality of Forest Lawn.


    Feather, Leonard G. "Neophonic in Season Finale." The Los Angeles Times 9 Feb. 1968: 60.

  • “Alumni Preserve Neophonic Continuity Without Kenton” — 9 March 1966

    Alumni Preserve Neophonic Continuity Without Kenton

    By Leonard Feather

    Stan Kenton was not onstage Monday evening when the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra gave the third concert of its second season. It was the first time Kenton had relinquished, his baton to a guest conductor.

    He was continuously present in spirit, however, for the guest. conductor was one of his most distinguished alumni, Bill Russo. Some 16, years ago, Russo was composing and arranging music for Kenton’s “Innovation’s in Modem Music” orchestra. The two were in large measure responsible for the development of a musical amalgam that was later to be known as Third Stream Music and wrongly credited as the brain-child of later navigators on the same stream.

    Variegated Moods

    Reinforcing the identification still further, Franklyn Marks, another contributor to the library of that 1950 orchestra, wrote Monday evening’s opening work, “The New World.” Starling with a sonorous largo movement in which the French horn section was employed to admirable effect, it proceeded to a series of variegated moods including a fast waltz, a slow 4/4 passage featuring Conte Condoli’s muted trumpet, and a moderato swinging segment that offered brief ad lib openings to several soloists.

    Variety of Meters

    “The New World” was successful not only on the level of intrinsic musical merit, but also because it had the virtue, somewhat rare in Third Stream music, of succinctness. Despite its comparative brevity, every little movement had a meaning all its own.

    In the next work, “Contemplations, by the Viennese composer Paul Ruhlan, the prolixity of the writing offered a sharp contrast. Ruhlan incorporated a variety of meters, achieved some startling bumblebee sounds with the sax section, and apparently tried to cover an enormous canvas with not quite enough paint. Nevertheless the piece had many rewarding moments. There was one singularly striking passage featuring the alto sax of Bud Shank pitted against trombones and tuba. Shank played as If he had just jilted Michelle and was celebrating the separation.

    Exciting Climax

    The first hair or the concert concluded with a four-part work, “Tangents,” by Dick Grove, for which the Cai Tjader Quintet was added to the orchestra. One of the most protean writers on the Hollywood scene, Grove always seems conscious of the vital role that must be played by improvisation, in any successful symphonic–jazz wedding.

    His first movement had a model quality that recalled the Gerald Wilson band. At one point a trio of drummers—Larry Bunker, Armando Peraza and Johnny Rae—built to an exciting polyrhythmic climax. Tjader’s vibraharp provided a stimulating centerpiece.

    Four ‘celli appeared and the French horn section disappeared in Richard Peaslee’s “Stonehenge,” a moody work that was rich in texture. In direct opposition to the Ruhlan piece, Peaslee’s work seemed to be all paint and not quite enough canvas,

    Critical Challenge

    To conclude the evening Russo conducted a five-part work of his own. “In Memoriam (to the Memory of Philip Ball)” called on the services of a nine piece choir and two solo voices.

    To· write an extended composition inspired by death has always been a somewhat. critical challenge. Russo succeeded In bringing to his requiem enough vocal and instrumental variety to sustain. the interest throughout. He is a brilliant composer- arranger with an awareness of the necessity for melodic appeal, rhythmic impulse and overall form. “In Memoriam” had clarity, continuity and cohesion.

    In Jean Sewell and Ray Johnson he presented two striking discoveries. In the first movement it was somewhat disarming to hear a set of Langston Hughes verses sung In quasi-operatic contralto, verses that could have struck closer to the soul had there been a touch of Billie Holiday in her timbre. But the beauty of Miss Sewell’s sound soon overruled all objections.

    Vocal Blues

    Johnson, on the other hand, has a built-in blues edge to his vocal quality; between his own solo, the trombone of Bob Fitzpatrick, and the swinging groove achieved by the orchestra, a jazz high point of the evening was reached in, of all places, the movement called “Take Me Death.”

    In sum, this was one of the most stimulating concerts of the Neophonic’s one-and-three fourths seasons to date. It was regrettable (and a reverse tribute to Kenton’s drawing power) that the attendance fell considerably below that of previous performances.


    Feather, Leonard G. "Alumni Preserve Neophonic Continuity Without Kenton." The Los Angeles Times 9 Mar. 1966: 75.

  • “Neophonic Goes to College” — 6 April 1966

    Neophonic Goes to College

    By Leonard Feather

    If big bands are to survive, the colleges will provide the mouth-to-mouth-piece resuscitation. This was never more radiantly evident than in the performance of the North Texas State University Lab Band as multiple guests of the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra Monday evening.

    Leon Breeden, director of Lab Bands at North Texas since 1959 (there are now six rehearsing dally), led his No. 1 band through a set that elicited a standing ovation from an astonished audience.

    Perhaps -the band’s precision, consistently strong rhythmic sense and individual solo strength should not have come as too much of a surprise. Thelonious Monk was close to the core of the matter when he observed, "If you can’t play by the time you’re 19 or 20, you never will." The average age of the North Texas musicians is 21.

    Study in Contrasts

    There was a fascinating study ‘in contrasts between the student band and the work of the skilled team of veterans who constitute the bulk of the Neophonic. The men under Stan Kenton’s baton are brilliant, mature musicians, most of them claiming a background of many years of varied musical experience. On the other hand. they have less time at their disposal to rehearse an entire season’s compliment of music than the North Texas band has in a single week.

    Palying [sic] together constantly four or five hours a day throughout the semester, under a fine teacher like Breeden, produces results unattainable by any group that meets only a couple of times a month. The fruits of togetherness could be tasted from the first moment the youngsters chomped their way into Billy Byers’ opener, "Rabble Rouser."

    Closer to Essence

    Admittedly the music played, was simpler than the material ventured by the Neophonic. By the same token, though, it was far closer to the essence of Jazz.

    That the band is also capable of tackling pieces of a more intricate nature was illustrated in "Concertino.” This striking work, written by the band’s talented pianist Dan Haerle, featured three soloists: Mike Heathman, a trombonist with power, assurance and a keen sense of swing; John Giordano, an alto player who seems to have been frightened by Ornette Coleman but who showed promise; and Bill Stapleton, a trumpeter, most of whose solo was drowned out by the band.

    There was an attempt to construct a grandioso finale by combining the Texas band with the Neophonic, in a Jim Knight work called “Two Voices." Almost inevitably collapsing of its own weight (47 musicians), the project proved anticlimactic.

    For the first (non Texan) half of the concert, Kenton introduced five new compositions. The program got off to a palpitating start as bassist Bob West and saxophonist Bob Cooper set the pace for the first movement of "Four Pieces for Neophonic Orchestra,” a kaleidoscopically moving work by Tommy Vig, a young Hungarian refugee. (Emil Richards, Bud Shank (on clarinet) and other soloists were heard from during the four segments, their roles interwoven into a fabric that used the orchestra’s facilities to full advantage.)

    Vig’s name must be added to the long list of great new talents launched by Kenton during the past two seasons. This was the final concert of the Neophonic’s second season. Over-all, it was more satisfying than the first, and there is every reason to assume that the third will be even better.

    It is good to know, too, that Junior Neophonics, and Neophonics in other cities, are about to be organized as a result of the Los Angeles initiative. Kenton and his associates, George Greif and Sid Garris, are to be congratulated for their collaboration in a demanding task. the repercussions of which will be felt far beyond this city or this country. And probably far beyond this decade.


    Feather, Leonard G. "Neophonic Goes to College." The Los Angeles Times 6 Apr. 1966: 86.

  • “Neophonic Group at Music Center” — 21 Feburary 1968

    Neophonic Group at Music Center

    By Leonard Feather

    After a 22-month absence, the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra was back at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Monday night. The homecoming per se, and the quality of the opening program, provided dual causes for celebration. Neophonic president Stan Kenton must have felt like an archer who, having a found a lost target, proceeded to hit nine bull’s-eye.

    Because the term neophonic can be construed in as many ways as there are composers, the evening was a kaleidophone of sounds. Some were impressionistic in the ravel-Debussy vein, others were evocative of the Stravinsky school. At various points one could hear everything and anything connoted by the term Third Stream Music, and, in varying degrees, many forms of jazz.

    This is not to imply that eclecticism was the order of the evening. Each of the nine composers represented was concerned not with showing his influences but with doing his thing. Whether his thing turned out to be an elaborate network of orchestral colors or an exciting framework for an improvising soloists, everyone seemed to reach his destination.

    Focal Points

    Inevitably, the focal points of the program were two new pieces featuring the guest soloists. Gerald Wilson’s ‘Collage,” written for Julian (Cannonball) Adderley, presented the alto saxophonist in an incomparably handsome context. The work opened with Adderley showing the Benny Carter side of his personality in a stately melodic theme.

    Later, in a haunting minor passage, another facet was set off by the spicing of the background with that ever welcome Wilson ingredient, a dash of Mexico. Still another sequence found Adderley in his modern jazz bag, with Wilson’s scoring providing the perfect envelope.

    If Wilson’s work represented a happy marriage of composition and exposition, no less could be said of the Jimmy Jones piece, “Late Flight,” written for Wes Montgomery and named at the last minute in honor of his overdue plane. Despite little time for rehearsal, Montgomery blended perfectly with the orchestra in the lovely opening thematic statement.

    Jones reserved his main orchestral resources for the early passages, which reflected a strong Duke Ellington influence. Later in the work, he made decorative and skillful use of the woodwinds to back some of the guitarist’s octave unison passages.

    At a cue from Kenton, midway through his flight, Montgomery slipped into high and took off on some plain old single string blues, abetted only by the rhythm section. In this passage we heard the most directly jazz-oriented moments of the entire program.

    Among the other works, Willie Maiden’s “Bygones” was outstanding in its rich voicings and poignant use of French horns and muted trumpets. Two excellent saxophone soloists, Bob Cooper and Gabe Baltazar, were important contributors.

    Promising Newcomer

    Kenneth Miller’s “The Seasons” was a long, superbly orchestrated work, its shifting meters and moods showing off the full palette from Baltazar’s piccolo to John Bambridge’s tuba. Ray Sherman, the orchestra’s pianist, also made full and compelling use of the 26-man force in the well constructed “Theme, Variation and Fugue.”

    “Three Sounds for Neophonic Orchestra,” by the promising young composer Alf Clausen, seemed to reflect a Gerald Wilson influence. Its ingenious interpolation of jazz solos by several members of the orchestra established this as virtually a definitive Third Stream composition, at least according to my construction of the term.

    Dee Barton’s “Passion Suite” proved to be the most stimulating work to date by this former Kenton sideman. Piquant use was made of a two-man “up front” section composed of Ray Reed on alto sax and Jay Daversa on trumpet.

    Two pieces performed at previous neophonic concerts were brought back. Johnny Williams’ multitextured, sometimes ominous “Prelude and Fugue.”

    In short, the sole cause for complaint would be that the neophonic this season will present only three concerts. For this thoroughly rewarding evening, congratulations are due to Kenton and to all his associates, musical and nonmusical. Among the latter are the executives of the Opportunities Industrialization Center, whose co-sponsorship made this third neophonic’s return possible.


    Feather, Leonard G. "Neophonic Group at Music Hall." The Los Angeles Times 21 Feb. 1968: 92.

  • Season 3, Concert 2 — 20 March 1968
    If you have this review, or know of an archive that has it, please let me know.
  • “Neophonic in Season Finale” — 17 April 1968

    Neophonic in Season Finale

    By Leonard Feather

    Monday evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra gave its third and final concert of the season. Stan Kenton was back at the podium to conduct all but two of the eight works performed.

    The program was intelligently paced. Every composition was well enough scored and conceived to hold the attention: however, there were three that stood out, for various reasons, as the most inventive. Which of these could be adjudged the evenings most galvanic offering was more a matter of personal taste than of critical evaluation, since their aims were almost completely different.

    Schifrin Conducts

    This writer’s personal bias leaned toward a series of short works from a suite bearing an unconscionably long name: “The Dissection and Reconstruction of Music From the Past as a Tribute to the Memory of the Marquis de Sade.” The five pieces were composed by Lalo Schifrin, who also served as pianist and conductor.

    There have been previous attempts to fuse preclassical European music with modem idioms, but none had the wit, clarity and logic of Schifrin’s. Starting with a Bach-inspired minor blues, he next paid homage to 12th century secular music in a delightful trifle called “Troubadour.” Then, as the Los Angeles String Quartet and a harp were added for an updated impression of renaissance chamber music, there were moments of sheer delight as the performance turned somersaults from prim strings to wailing jazz piano.

    A singer, Loulie Jean Norman, joined the company for a transcription or an 18th-century song, ‘‘Beneath a Weeping Willow’s Shade.” Schifrin’s century-shuffIing journey reached its destination with a blare of brass in a contemporary sonatina, “The Wig.”

    Jazz Juxtaposition

    The entire set demonstrated that the juxtaposition of jazz at various classical forms can be achieved with skill, humor and a complete lack of pomp.

    Far more startling than Schifrin’s work was the evening finale, composed and played by another brilliant pianist, Roger Kellaway. Entitled “Self Portrait,” it was a wild exploration of the mind of its composer.

    Kellaway employed his own jazz quintet to join forces with the Neophonic. Using various amplification devices, he crossed the barrier that separates regimented instrumental music from Indefinable abstract sound.

    At the same time he escaped from tonality into complete freedom, Playing at times with demonic force, he coaxed his improvising sidemen (most notably saxophonist Tom Scott) toward the outer reaches of the avant-garde.

    Another composer who seemed to lead the audience through the widening corridors of his imagination was Tommy Vig, who wrapped the Neophonlc around his vibraharp in a four-part suite entitled “Intro, Largo, Presto and Besame Mucho.” The last portion was, of course, a reshaping of the Latin Pan Alley standard; the preceding segments were entirely original. There was some invigorating interplay between vibes and brass, and an affecting four-mallet solo by Vig in the closing movement.

    Calvin Jackson, a writer and pianist in an earlier Broadway-to-Hollywood tradition, was heard in “Themes and Explorations,” complete with Gershwinesque touches. Also performed were “Vasas,” a relatively conventional but scintillatingly orchestrated 4/4 work by

    Earl ZIndars; “Nightmare” by Loula Fratturo, in which the most lyrical movements gave the lie to its title; “Tiare,” a Kentonish piece by Ken Hanna’ and “Motivos,” by a writer from Las Vegas, Raoul Romero.

    Despite a few minor flaws, the interpretations did justice to the composers. Kenton and the Neophonlc deserve a better fate than a three-concert season, an uncertain future or even an unfilled seat.

    The orchestra has shown again that it fills a vacuum in Los Angeles’ musical life. Every, effort should be made not merely to keep it alive, but to expand its activities and
    stimulate public interest in this brave and unique venture.


    Feather, Leonard G. "Neophonic in Season Finale." The Los Angeles Times 17 Apr. 1968: 76.

Feature Articles

  • “Neophonic: the Pluses and Minuses” — 28 March 1965

    Neophonic: the Pluses and Minuses

    By Art Seidenbaum

    The Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra, the likes of which there aren’t anywhere else on earth, concludes its first season Monday night at The Music Center Pavilion.

    The historic experiment—a resident collection of superior musicians playing new (neo) compositions written by men who wrestle with contemporary sounds (phonic)—as already proved, plus or minus, many theories:

    1—Indeed there are audiences for this musical child of a mixed marriage, between so-called classical music (the formal father) and so-called jazz (the emotional mother). The Pavilion has been close to brimming, averaging nearly 90%, capacity for the first three flights of the Neophonic. Considering that the orchestra was booked for thin Monday on each outing, allowing that there was no Neophonic habit and remembering that big-band jazz in Los Angeles has enjoyed only a half-life lately, the box office tempo is up.

    Underlining counting-house success was the second session which had to compete with a major jazz concert just down the road-apiece. For booking reasons best known to himself, Norman Granz scheduled Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Tony Bennett in the Shrine Auditorium against Stan Kenton, the Neophonic and Dizzy Gillespie in The Music Center. Instead of blowing the two houses down, competition somehow resulted in crowds at both halls.

    Open Ears, Open Mind

    This audience is open-eared and minded: they cheer when most challenged musically. They are well-dressed and well-shaved. They sometimes applaud between movements, which is either bad manners or unrestrained appreciation, depending upon whether you grew up on the bride’s side or the bridegroom’s side.

    2—To do one polished concert, you need more than two rehearsals.

    With all its native talent—including Bud Shank, Conte Candoli, Buddy Collette, Shelly Manne—the Neophonic has sometimes played rough with the music (so ragged during one coda in the second concert that conductor Kenton later apologized to the audience). The 26 men play magnificently and they read music fluently, but because of inadequate rehearsal time, not always together.

    The acoustics. the intentions, the musicians are so good they deserve better than two to get ready.

    3—A resident orchestra sometimes changes residents.

    Because of the confusing conflicts of Interest—record dates, films, TV, tours—the orchestra personnel has not been as stable as the sponsoring International Academy of Contemporary Music (try writing a singing commercial for that title) might have hoped. Between the debut concert and the third concert, the pianists have changed, three of the four trombonists are different, a switch on tuba, another on guitar, one substitution each among the ‘trumpets and saxophones. Only the French horn section, the non-solo seats, has remained intact.

    Probably, a new musical organization with a short season must play musical chairs. But next year’s Neophonic ought to do a more permanent recruiting job; keeping the same residents housed in The Music Center.

    Among the regulars, by my ears, Shank has been the most consistently exciting soloist in an orchestra that rides handsomely along the polyrhythms of Manne.

    4—Not all new music sounds new, even at a world premiere.

    In the late 1940s, leader Stan Kenton attached his name to a Capitol album called “Innovations.” So they were, at the time. The first Neophonic concert, with new compositions by several excellent writers, too often sounded like an echo of “Innovations.”

    That is not to say bad, by any means. This same music, almost 20 years later, is complex, exciting and still relatively unknown. In truth, one reviewer thought the most adventurous piece during the opening evening was “Conflict” by Pete Rugulo [sic]. “Conflict,” it happens, was the one composition that came directly out of the “Innovations” album.

    Prejudices: the music by Lalo Schifrin, Marty Paich and Johnny Richards provided the most electricity in the debut concert, with Schifrin’s fugue, “The Sphinx,” both giving the most, by its most of jazz feeling within a formal structure, and demanding the most, by its complex harmonics.

    During the second concert (including music by Allyn Ferguson, Gerald Wilson, George Shearing, Julian Lee), one of Neophonic’s built-in problems became apparent. Sometimes, when the music was most melodic it didn’t swing. Sometimes: when it swung. it didn’t sound modern. Sometimes, when it was modern, it neither swung nor had melody. In a full program, all these conditions are tolerable, even occasionally desirable, but too often the individual compositions had all conditions going for and against them within a single piece.

    This movement within movements. from a repeated riff sound of 1930 jazz to the syrup of movie music to the formalism of the Classics, became even more noticeable in the third concert. The noble, I think necessary, effort to build suspension bridges between all musical expression sometimes falls in midstream.

    Yet at least once in each evening, the spanning worked, hung out there shining so brightly the audience could hear, feel, see and taste the real progressions possible. In the third concert, it was Shorty Rogers’ “The Invisible Orchard” that had discipline, jazz and beauty all raveled in one composition. It was written as a ballet to boot and I’d like to see it danced the next time.

    5—A guest artist is not always welcome.

    Friedrich Gulda, an Austrian who plays Beethoven piano and writes for jazz musicians, premiered a concerto at the opening concert. Technically, he was brilliant at his instrument; emotionally, his composition was neither very engaging nor very daring.

    Pedaled Commercial Route

    Gillespie was far more satisfying as the second guest, playing music by Gil Fuller and pointing his peculiar diagonal-bell trumpet closer to jazz. Dizzy has a unique phonic genius all his own; it works handsomely in a concert ball surrounded by 26 musicians in tuxedos: Probably the only formality missing was in his manner; Gillespie might have saved his mugging for after the performance, not before he blew a note. He Is a genuinely funny man but his timing can be off, allowing him to forget to prove that he is a musician first.

    Jimmy Smith, organist, was a dubious choice as one of two guests. for the third concert. His material was wrong, from “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” to “Walk on the Wild Side” Smith pedaled a commercial route. His approach, which is part pop, part gospel, part movie-house intermission music, bas little to do with the Neophonic defilations.

    Buddy De Franco, clarinetist, was the anchor guest at concert number three. He did well by Nelson Riddle’s “Il Saltimbocca.”

    For the upcoming finale, Mel Torme, augmented by strings and a choir, will do his “California Suite.” Torme is an accomplished musician: whether he fits on the Neophonic platform is a question that awaits Monday.

    It Is already clear to me that not all guests were chosen for their far-sighted contributions to American music. Maybe commercial compromise is the way to whet enough appetites to establish a Neophonic orchestra for future season. I doubt it. If you have to dilute the contents during the first year, you may one day let the whole purpose evaporate and Neophonic could turn into an empty coinage covering every box office act from Peter, Paul and Mary to Tom, Dick and Harry Belafonte.

    6—Stan Kenton has the stature to conduct such an orchestra. Having plumped for it, written for it, fronted for it, he wind’s up the season with his dignity remarkably intact.

    Scarecrow-tall, angular. without baton, Kenton leads the Neophonic by planting his legs and shooting his arms as if they were fireworks from the last Fourth of July.

    His brief speeches and introductions of the composers have been lucidly delivered.

    His ‘“Opus for Timpani,” done in the debut concert, was loud and good. His arrangements of Wagnerian themes for the second concert were an Interesting exercise in updating, possibly too faithful to be fine.

    It has been easy for some jazz hot-spurs to dismiss Kenton as a history of brass wails in the wilderness. It has been easy because he has been going off in a Neophonic direction now for a quarter century.

    It has also been unfair. Because, alone with Duke Ellington, Kenton has explored adventurous music for large orchestra when other leaders tossed in their mutes or took two steps back to safer territory.

    The theme, then, with all the ifs and buts and howevers as overtones attached to this first year, is that Neophonic gives this place something worthy, something good to grow on.

    This is music you can analyze: with your mind. It can also be measured by your foot—whether while listening with your bead, your foot moves in time. Mine moves.


    Seidenbaum, Art. "Neophonic: The Pluses and Minuses." The Los Angeles Times 28 Mar. 1965: 120.

  • “Kenton To Strike Up Band For 2nd Neophonic Series” — 26 December 1965

    Kenton To Strike Up Band For 2nd Neophonic Series

    By Charles Champlin

    In two weeks’ time, on Jan. 10, the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra will start its second season of concerts· at The Music Center under the guidance of Stan Kenton.

    At the same time, Capitol Is releasing an album or the of the best tracks from last year’s successful Neophonic sessions.

    There Is a possibility that the Neophonic idea will this year go national and international. Anthony Newley and Skitch Henderson are heading a committee to establish a Neophonic season at Lincoln Center. Percussionist Dick Schory is trying to organize a similar project for Chicago and Phil Solomon is working to shape up a Neophonic orchestra in London. (Until he returned to the United States about a year ago, Kenton alumnus Bill Russo had great success with his after-hours London Rehearsal Band, built and charted along Kenton-Neophonic lines.) In mid-March, Kenton himself goes to Copenhagen to conduct some of the Neophonic pieces with the Danish Radio Orchestra.

    All four of this season’s concerts here will feature new works throughout. Gerry Mulligan will be guest soloist at the opening concert and is co-authoring a piece with Bill Holman. Other writers represented will be Lenny Niehaus, Oliver Nelson, Mort Stevens, Bob Cooper, William Jolly, a young San Franciscan named Earl Zindars and Chick Sponder. Kenton himself will conduct.

    Doing nothing but new works puts a whopping strain on Kenton and his 26 men, who’ll have to master fiercely complex arrangements in only two days of rehearsal. But it’s a curiously complimentary kind of challenge.

    Audience Ready for More

    Kenton and his founding associates had last year hoped to do all-new and exploratory works, but then hesitated, fearing that it ·would make for a richer diet of wailing than audiences could take. As it turned out, however, it was the blander parts of the diet—the pieces heard before and, in one case, pretty pop—that the audiences and the reviewers found not to their taste.

    “We got the message,” Kenton said at The Music Center the other day, “don’t hold back. These people are ready for new things. This really came home to me one day after the last concert when I was out shopping. A woman—she must have been 75—stopped me in the market and said, ‘I enjoyed all four concerts but really, that Torme piece (California Suite) is pretty corny; it didn’t belong.’ Well, it’s a good piece, which is why we played It, but she was right; it didn’t belong.

    Neophonic is not a word Kenton Is ideally happy with. It means ‘new sound, but Kenton worries that it carries overtones of electronic or computerized music, which is no part of the series. On the other hand, he says, “Jazz is such a heat-up word these days that you just can’t use it any more.”

    Not long after the fourth concert, Kenton will celebrate his 20th year as a working bandleader, since it was on Memorial Day, 1941 that the Kenton sound burst into hearing at the Balboa Ballroom. Overnight, it now seems in retrospect, the capabilities of the big band advanced a giant step. Complex rhythms and advanced chord structures were not only heard, they found an audience and commercial success.

    Down the years since, Kenton has proved a bandleader with no exact equal in the business. He has been characterized by a gnawing restlessness to see what lay over the next musical horizon even if it meant, as it usually did, leaving behind a rich musical gold mine which he had hardly begun to work financially. (He had worked it over musically, which was his point.)

    Distinctions Demolished

    Artistry in Rhythm begat Progressive Jazz, which begat Innovations in Modern Music and so through several permutations. With the late Bob Graettinger’s compositions like ‘City of Glass,’ Kenton made kindling of whatever artificial distinctions could be said to exist between jazz and serious music (both of them by now pretty beat-up words, come to think of it). His bands didn’t just play Third Stream, they dug the canal.

    On the 20th anniversary of the Balboa debut, Kenton introduced the most recent or his innovations, a big band with four special brass instruments called mellophoniums which joined with trumpets and trombones to create lush, Wagnerian sonorities. (Not surprisingly, one or his 30 albums on Capitol is called “Kenton-Wagner.”)

    Two years ago, after finishing a successful tour around England, Kenton decided he’d about had the rigors of touring and of maintaining a big band fulltime. He closed his office, moved to the ocean and occupied himself (busily enough) with the Neophonic, recordings, guest shots and occasional local engagements, as at the Manne-Hole, with an ad hoc band but one well-staffed with his veteran sidemen.

    The impression from hearing the last of last year’s Neophonic concerts was that Kenton was—as he ever was—exploring the outer edges of a big band’s jazz capabilities. There was also the impression, it must be said, that we had been there before, or almost there, thanks to Kenton’s own innovations down these many years. Although the new pieces were new, the philosophic debt to Kenton was clear.

    Kenton himself is today pretty philosophical and detached. He was not long ago widely quoted, and misquoted, as having said jazz is through. His thought in fact was that jazz is spent, in much the sense that a rocket motor is spent when it has got the rocket into orbit.

    “Jazz has made its contribution to music,” he said the other day. “All music hereafter will reflect its complex rhythms and its emphasis on individuality.

    “When the history of music is written 200 years from now,” he adds with a wry smile, “jazz should be worth a couple of paragraphs anyway.”

    ln the late 50s when rock ‘n’ roll was thundering onto the scene, Kenton blasted it and said, “People don’t seem to want to think anymore.” But R ‘n’ R has evolved and Kenton looks more kindly upon the pop scene. Indeed, he says, “Kids today listen to something we thought was great, like ‘King Porter Stomp,’ and they say Gee, nothing’s happening. The drummer goes chonk, chonk, chonk. But in their music now so much is happening. Their drummers are going cha chonk chonk cha cha chonk. It’s alive.”

    It awes Kenton slightly that everyone now, as he says, “no longer just listens to music, they devour it like air and food. They must have a subconscious need to be moved by music, and a need for new things or for old things done new ways. This has shortened the musical generations. Kenton had ironic evidence of this. His former wife, singer Ann Richards, who is 30, was leaving for a night club appearance. Their daughter, who is 9, said, “Now, Mother, just don’t sing any Beatle songs. It’s silly when an older woman sings them. The Beatles are themselves hurtling toward 30, of course, but the point is made.

    Yet Kenton refuses to be nostalgic, and continues to be fascinated by the evolving sound of jazz, by whatever name. “We are going the jazz route,” he says, “but we are beyond jazz.”

    How far beyond, we’ll discover week after next.


    The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California)
    Sun, Dec 26, 1965 · Page 64, 43